Biden has chosen retired General Lloyd Austin for defense secretary

Presidential Transition

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President-elect Joe Biden has chosen retired General Lloyd Austin, who oversaw U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Barack Obama, to be his defense secretary, Politico reported on Monday, citing three people with knowledge of the decision.

In picking Austin, who would be the first Black U.S. secretary of defense, Biden bypassed Michelle Flournoy, who would have been the first woman defense secretary and had been seen as the leading contender for the job.

Austin, who headed U.S. Central Command under Obama, will need a waiver from Congress since it has been less than seven years since he served. His nomination could draw fire from some progressive groups given his role on the board of a number of companies, including weapons maker Raytheon Technologies Corp .

Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, also announced members of his health team to lead the administration’s response to the raging coronavirus pandemic.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Julia Harte; Writing by Grant McCool and John Whitesides; Editing by Scott Malone, Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney)

This is a developing story.

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